Thursday, November 30, 2017

A book penned by a Saint

Yes, I'm still digging in that pile of books. Where DID our grandmother get them from?

I thought that the Metastasio volume must surely be the oldest, but then I came upon this. The tooled leather binding just shrieks seventeenth-century. Doesn't it? Shame the clasp is missing.

Well, I was almost right. It is dated 1701. But this one isn't a play. It is, for heaven's sake, a German-language Catechism. Now, I have to admit that I don't rightly know what a Catechism is. From my reading of elderly novels, I gathered it was something religious that little girls were set to learning by heart, after they'd learned the alphabet and the times-table. Oh, little Catholic girls. So what in heaven's name is this doing in our family?

I see the name of the sixteenth-century Dutch Jesuit preacher Peter Canisius credited as the author of the text. Perhaps this is why he was later created a Saint. Anyway, he is obviously an impeccable source for the faithful. I read: 'His lasting contribution is his three catechisms which he published in Latin and German, which became widespread and popular in Catholic regions'. 'It went through 400 editions in 150 years'. And I see it was reprinted 2015! So scarcely a rarity.

Also impeccable, is the publisher and printer's credit. Georg Labaun was one of the era's most respected printers, and I must say his typeface is beautifully clear and crisp and legible even three hundred years and more on. I chased Labaun on the internet and find him responsible largely  for music publication, but Canisius was clearly everybody's duty (and a big seller), and this pocket-sized edition is a nice thing.

But what on earth do I do with it? Put it back on the shelf and continue on to the next, I suppose.

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